narcissists are ostentatiously generous: they donate to charity, lavish gifts
on their closest, abundantly provide for their nearest and dearest, and, in
general, are open-handed and unstintingly benevolent. It is a form of virtue
signalling. How can this be reconciled with the pronounced lack of empathy and
with the pernicious self-preoccupation that is so typical of narcissists?
The act of giving enhances the
narcissist's sense of omnipotence, his fantastic grandiosity, and the contempt
he holds for others. It is easy to feel superior to the supplicating recipients
of one's largesse. Narcissistic altruism is about exerting control and
maintaining it by fostering dependence in the beneficiaries.
But narcissists give for other
reasons as well.
The narcissist flaunts his
charitable nature as a bait. He impresses others with his selflessness and
kindness and thus lures them into his lair, entraps them, and manipulates and
brainwashes them into subservient compliance and obsequious collaboration.
People are attracted to the narcissist's larger than life posture – only to
discover his true personality traits when it is far too late. "Give a
little to take a lot" – is the narcissist's creed.
This does not prevent the narcissist
from assuming the role of the exploited victim. Narcissists always complain
that life and people are unfair to them and that they invest far more than
their "share of the profit". The narcissist feels that he is the
sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat, and that his relationships are asymmetric and
imbalanced. "She gets out of our marriage far more than I do" – is a
common refrain. Or: "I do all the work around here – and they get all the
perks and benefits!"
People-pleasers dread conflicts
and wish to avoid them (they are conflict-averse) - hence their need to believe
that they are universally liked. Always pleasant, well-mannered, and civil, the
conflict-averse people-pleaser is also evasive and vague, hard to pin down,
sometimes obsequious and, generally, a spineless “non-entity”. These qualities
are self-defeating as they tend to antagonize people rather than please them.
But conflict-aversion is
only one of several psychodynamic backgrounds for the behavior
known as “people-pleasing”:
1.Some people-pleasers cater to the needs
and demands of others as a form of penance, or self-sacrifice;
2.Many people-pleasers are codependents and
strive to gratify their nearest and dearest in order to allay their own
abandonment anxiety and the ensuing intense – and, at times, life-threatening -
dysphoria (“if I am nice to him, he won’t break up with me”, “if I cater to her
needs, she won’t leave me”);
3.A few people-pleasers are narcissistic: pleasing
people enhances their sense of omnipotence (grandiosity). They seek to control
and disempower their “charges” (“she so depends on and looks up to me”). Even
their pity is a form of self-aggrandizement (“only I can make her life so much
better, she needs me, without me her life would be hell.”). They are misanthropic
altruists and compulsive
All people-pleasers use these
common coping strategies:
1.Dishonesty (to avoid conflicts and unpleasant
2.Manipulation (to ensure desired outcomes, such as
an intimate partner’s continued presence);
3.Fostering dependence: codependent people-pleasers leverage
their ostentatious helplessness and manifest weaknesses to elicit the kind of
behaviours and solicit the benefits that they angle for, while narcissistic
people-pleasers aim to habituate their targets by bribing them with gifts,
monopolizing their time, and isolating them socially;
4.Infantilization: displaying childish behaviours to
gratify the emotional needs of over-protective, possessive, paranoid,
narcissistic, and codependent individuals in the people-pleaser’s milieu;
5.Self-punishment, self-defeat, and
signal self-annulment in the pursuit of people-pleasing.
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